Stingray City is a must-see stop for any marine wildlife enthusiasts who are visiting Grand Cayman. This excursion was the absolute highlight of Emily’s stay on the island. She was amazed by the grace and beauty of these gentle sea creatures.
There are a variety of tour operators to choose from on the islands. Most tours include a snorkeling stop or two and tours normally last between two and three hours. Since Emily and her sister prefer smaller, less crowded tour groups, we looked for a tour that accommodated a relatively small number of people. Another plus for the tour we chose was shaded seating availability on the boat. To further avoid the crowds, we chose a day when cruise ships were not in port on the island. Tours typically arrange a pick up from your hotel or cruise ship. Since we had rented a vehicle for our vacation, we met at the tour operator’s facility to begin our tour.
“Traveling with Autism Tip: Avoid a crowded tour boat. Look for a snorkeling tour that accommodates a relatively small number of people. Also, pack your own snacks to bring on the boat.”
We wanted to come as prepared as possible for our three-hour tour. We brought sunscreen, snacks, snorkeling skins/suits to help prevent sunburn while snorkeling, and Dramamine for motion sickness. Since the water was choppy on the day of our tour, we were grateful that we had remembered the Dramamine. Emily’s sister ended up needing it to combat a touch of seasickness. The boat operator provided us with water, fruit punch, fins, masks, and snorkels.
Stingray City Exploration Adventure
Stingray City is a popular snorkeling spot because many stingrays are known to gather in that particular location. Fishermen would clean their catches of fish at this spot, which is what initially attracted the stingrays years ago. Now, the stingrays know to swim to the area as soon as they hear a boat motor.
It took the boat 30 minutes to travel to Stingray City. As we approached the area there appeared to be large, dark spots moving gracefully through the water close to the boat. When we arrived, other boats were already at this popular spot. Fins and water shoes were prohibited to protect the stingrays. Masks and snorkels were optional. Emily recommends that you bring them or go with a tour group that provides them so you can enjoy observing the stingrays underwater. The crystal clear water allowed them to catch a good glimpse of the stingrays before ever leaving the boat.
We plunged into the water off the back of the boat. Once in the ocean, the sandbar was shallow enough for us to stand up. Our guides held a large stingray that we could pose with for pictures. Old Cayman lore teaches that if you kiss a stingray you’ll receive seven years of good luck.
The guides handed out squid for us to feed to the stingrays. Since their eyes are on the top of their heads, they find their food by using their sense of smell. We had to be careful where on our bodies we let the squid touch. Any place the stingrays picked up the scent of squid, they would try to suck with their vacuum-like mouths. As soon as the stingrays caught the scent of squid in the water they began swimming all around us. We and our fellow tourists laughed and screamed with delight as stingrays hunted for some tasty squid. Gigi, Emily’s grandma, wondered why she had so many stingrays sucking on her back. Unbeknownst to her, Emily had rubbed her back with squid!
Best Snorkeling Spot: Coral Gardens
The Cayman Islands are renowned for great snorkelling. Ocean conditions are usually calm, the visibility is good, and the waters are comfortably warm. Altogether it’s an ideal setting for catching an up-close look at fascinating marine wildlife.
The next stop on our tour was Coral Gardens. It boasts one of the best snorkeling spots in the North Sound but is only accessible by boat. Some of the main attractions at this spot are the beautiful corals, fans, and reef fish. There are also turtles and morays which frequent these waters.
The fish stay close to large coral formations in these waters. We were thrilled to see both large and small fish of many different species. The guide provided the girls with an up-close interaction with some of these amazing creatures. The little fish nibbled on the squid tentacles. Once a large fish came along, it snatched the food and started a feeding frenzy!